When you think of sensory rooms or sensory strategies, you may picture a large space with a lot of equipment for climbing, jumping, crawling, moving and crashing. For students who seek sensory input, this may be exactly the kind of sensory space they need. However, for students who are highly sensitive to sensory input, this kind of sensory space would not be effective. For highly sensitive students, the school environment can be very overwhelming. The bright lights, visual clutter, crowded hallways, loud noises…it’s all just too much. Having a space which reduces external stimuli and offers opportunities to engage in calming activities during the school day is essential for these students. Today, I want to share some must-have items that you may find helpful when setting up a calming sensory space for your students!
1. Comfortable Seating
A cozy seat is an essential component of a calming space. A bean bag chair is a great place to start! You can also try rocking chairs, a variety of large pillows, a crash pad, or a dish/scoop chair.
2. Lighting Options
If you have a dedicated calming room, try putting a lamp in the space so the student can turn off the bright fluorescent light. If you do not have a dedicated space, consider using the fluorescent light filters in your classroom or even using a tent in your calming space.
3. Noise Canceling Headphones
This is a great option for calming spaces within classrooms or even out in the community, where a calming space may not be available.
4. Bluetooth Speaker/CD Player
Having a way to play music or sounds will be very helpful in a calming space. Depending on the student needs, you can play or stream white noise to drown out sounds or you can play calming, relaxing music.
5. Tactile Fidgets
A variety of tactile fidgets are an essential component of a calming space. A current favorite of many of my students are the Pop It fidgets. You can also try play doh or resistive therapy putty as well.
6. Visual Tools
Visual tools such as a kalidescope, bubble tube, or visual sensory toys can be very calming.
7. Weighted Blanket
Weighted items provide deep pressure which can be very calming. It is very important to ensure your student is using the proper size/weight, so be sure to consult your OT before using any weighted products. A weighted lap pad can be another good option as well.
8. Coloring Books
Coloring books are very popular with people of all ages to help with regulation. You can print coloring pages or even purchase various coloring book options depending on your student population.
9. Fine Motor Toys
Fine motor toys such as beads to string as well as blocks are a good option to have in a calming space.
10. Mindfulness apps
If you have access to an iPad, try downloading some mindfulness apps for students to use, such as the Calm app, Moving Meditation, or Stop, Breathe, Think.